“Gonzo” by Éanlaí P. Cronin

Éanlaí P. Cronin


the gonzo mug, the first thing for which i reached 
that night when i was twelve and i returned
to the cubicle in the convent i called home 
where one hundred and thirty girls 
shuffled along the marble corridors of this once 
british landlord’s manor, the irony of such a gaggle 
of indigenous women speaking nothing 
but our native tongue in a place where once we 
would have been cailín aimsires, no more than scullery maids, 
no less than always available to the whims and wants 
of some hungry force tossing his occupying seed into unwelcomed 
furrows, here now our victory. our time. irish clambering back 
into the molecules of memory. day by day. phrase by 
repeated phrase. were i there again, it would be 
more than enough, the daily baptism 
of language resurrecting from the bones. back then, its loss 
sauntered along in the blood, the brutality of one native 
against another. who had words for damage done? who dared 
begin the job of that unraveling? the month february. 
the day valentine’s. just told by mother 
superior that the senior girl i adored (let me tell you here 
that this was a love that lasted all of fifteen minutes, beginning 
to finish, no idea in me of its great need, just one embrace 
in the darkness of a music room while others 
scurried past on their way from evening supper to study hall 
so that she and i arrived late and my heart knew 
something it had not known before, someone had claimed 
me entirely as their own). the hooked finger of mother 
superior beckoned from the dais. she whispered in my ear 
in the quietness of that once banquet room 
that this liaison was to cease. 
some snap undone. 
night prayers in church singing 
to a god i hated. climbed the spiral staircase, unearthed
the hidden envelope among my white knee socks. 
emptied the contents of my father’s heart 
pills into the saucer of my palm. filled the gonzo mug 
half way with freezing water. swallowed the lot. watched my reflection 
in the darkness of the window. smiled. 
i remember that. 
smiled at her authority. 
climbed into bed. 
waited. counted each breath. just as i had done 
months before. on the surgeon’s table. count backwards, 
the masked man had asked. 
ten to one, good girl. 
i did the same. 
i can’t remember 
where i stopped.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023
Tribute to Irish Poets


Éanlaí P. Cronin: “Born and reared in a small, Irish-speaking village in the southwest of Ireland, I learned, early in life, that language and land were intertwined. Indeed language and life itself were married in such a way that the singular incantation of a proverb or prayer evoked the nature of the Gael inside the blood, no matter how cold or indifferent one had become to one’s own native origins, no matter how deep a schism history had created in the marrow of the Irish psyche. An Irish verse or a psalm could bring a grown man or woman to tears in our winter kitchen. And I, as a child, could spend hours weeping in a quiet corner at something I didn’t fully understand but knew to be true and real. As real as the thinning carpet on which I sat. Or the small footstool upon which I perched at my mother’s feet by a roaring range. It seemed, back then, in the 1970s, and still to this day, that to hear the native tongue, to sing a traditional song, to recite an epic verse, ‘as Gaeilge,’ was to rebirth within the Irish skin something nearly dead and gone. To make room, not for the terrible beauty Yeats mourned, but for the trembling truth of the savage restored. Savage because we had, even in my childhood, come to view ourselves, through the eyes of long oppression, as mongrels of a kind, uncivilized, shameful, wanting in some way. Yet, not a word of such a thing ever spoken or dissected. As though to be Irish and to be broken were the common weather through which we moved. All of us flawed tokens. My task, as an Irish child, is to pen whatever I can that will rouse the Irish soul in my beloved homeland, and in me. To make sound that which has been silent and dying. To become once more unbound, her and I, in all our original splendor.” (web)

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